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It was waiting to happen; the first Web prisoner of conscience!
EGYPTIAN POLICE ARREST AL-AHRAM WEEKLY WEBMASTER FOR POSTING A POEM ONLINE
Cairo, November 22, 2001
Al-Ahram Weekly's webmaster, Shohdy Naguib was arrested in the early hours of Thursday November 22 from his home in Sayeda Zeinab. Security forces raided his house at dawn, confiscated his computer and took him to Al-Sayeda Zeinab police station. Shohdy called me from his cellular at 5:30 PM to notify me of what happened and according to him, he's accused of posting a poem, online, by his late father Naguib Surur, the renowned poet, playwright, actor and controversial figure.
The poem is titled Kuss Ummiyat. It was never published in print not only because of its shock-poetry nature, but also because of its strong and extremely harsh criticism of those Surur held responsible for the 1967 defeat. Its not obscene poetry, nor is it a vulgar statement by the poet, rather a unique expression of the man's sense of the defeat. Its not forced upon web surfers, nor is it being promoted. Its simply posted on a website and made available for those who wish to read it with their own free will.
Shohdy's website, wadada.net, which is hosted in the US and not Egypt, devotes part of its web pages to his father's work. The site and Surur's work have been online for the past three or four years at least. Posting material such as the Ummiyat does not violate Egyptian law. Actually, there is no law that controls or organises Internet usage in Egypt.
However, some members of the Egyptian security apparatus decided to use the powers of this very powerful institution and arrest Shohdy for something that does not even exist in Egyptian Law. And for some absurd reason, they referred the matter to the Adab police whose mandate is related to unethical behaviour such as prostitution and the likes.
When Shohdy called me he was assured they will release him on bail tonight. But we were informed that they will keep him for the night and refer him to another higher security body tomorrow, Friday the 23rd of November.We do not know when they will release him.
The site is still there and arresting Shohdy did not make it disappear from cyberspace. The arrest only sent yet another terrorizing message across.
It is ironic though that Egypt likes to project a secular, tolerant image of itself, yet it can not tolerate even the slightest form of freedom of expression: a poem in cyber space. Similarly, a backward and ignorant lot which calls itself the Taliban, had very little tolerance for anything it viewed remotely offensive to its fanatical understanding of morals, ethics and Islamic religion. Its obvious that many in Egypt's security apparatus share their views. And they will continue to violate the law and the constitution and impose their views on us unless we fight for the democratic principles we aspire.
Shohdy Naguib has been Al-Ahram Weekly's efficient and talented webmaster since 1998.
His own website is: http://www.wadada.net
This message is to inform and gather support. Please distribute.
Al-Ahram Weekly web editor, and staff member